Ramaphosa must come clean on China loan - Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says terms and conditions - particularly around SA’s repayment liability – remain secret

Maimane calls for Ramaphosa to table terms and conditions of R33 billion Eskom-China loan in Parliament within 14 days

In Wednesday’s Oral Questions session in Parliament, I asked President Ramaphosa about the nature of the R33 billion loan agreement that Eskom recently signed with the Chinese Development Bank. The President assured me that government is committed to transparency and accountability when borrowing money that will ultimately need to be paid back by the people of South Africa.

However, the terms and conditions of this loan - particularly around South Africa’s repayment liability – remain secret.

Therefore, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, I have today written to President Ramaphosa requesting that he tables the full unredacted loan agreement, with all its material terms and conditions, before the National Assembly within 14 days. If he fails to do so, the DA will submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request for the loan terms to be made public.

If the President is confident that the agreement is in the best interest of the South African people, he will surely accede to our request.

It is difficult to imagine that the Chinese Development Bank approved a R33 billion loan to Eskom with no strings attached. Eskom is in dire financial straits and made a R2.3 billion loss in the last financial year. It is therefore not clear how Eskom or the South African government will find the money to pay back this loan.

It is common cause that loans of this nature often keep developing countries in perpetual debt and create an environment for rampant corruption and abuse by the state at the expense of its people. Secrecy of agreements between the government and extra-state institutions lay at the heart of state capture.

In recent times, countries have paid a heavy price for entering into such loans. For example, Sri Lanka had to relinquish control of one of their ports as well as handing over 15 000 hectares of land when they failed to repay stringent terms and conditions of a Chinese Development Bank loan.

Eskom Chairman, Jabu Mabuza’s reply to DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises, Natasha Mazzone MP, disclosed some of the more general terms, but did not provide much detail, and importantly did not provide information on default liability. A loan of this magnitude, with the tax payer likely to foot the loan repayments, must be transparent.

President Ramaphosa needs to break away from the era of secrecy which is the ANC government’s modus operandi and make public the terms and conditions of this loan so that Parliament can fulfill its Constitutional duty of oversight and accountability.

Statement issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 26 August 2018